One member of Nelson Riddle’s orchestra, though he didn’t start out that way, was drummer Cubby O’Brien. O’Brien was a former Mouseketeer and by 1972, working with some name people. He began working on The Julie Andrews Hour as a rehearsal drummer.
Born in Burbank, California in 1946, Cubby’s given name was Carl Patrick O’Brien. As a baby, his mother thought he looked like a little bear cub and began calling him “Cubby.” The name stuck.
Cubby’s father, “Hack” O’Brien was a well-known drummer, who worked with some of the era’s great Big Bands. All three O’Brien boys, of which Cubby was the youngest, were interested were interested in music. Cubby began taking music lessons at the age of five. As a youngster, he performed with Roger Babcock Dixieland Band, sometimes appearing at charity events. At one of these events, a staffer for Walt Disney staffers saw him, and recommended him to Mr. Disney. As a result, Walt Disney personally asked nine year-old Cubby O’Brien to audition for The Mickey Mouse Club. (Walt Disney selected each member of the show himself.) Cubby was among the first Mousekateers, appearing on the show from 1955 – 1958.
By 1972, Cubby O’Brien was a professional drummer. As he explains it, in those days there was a lot of work for musicians. He played for The Carpenters, among others and filled in wherever he could. When The Julie Andrews Hour went into production, he was hired to work as the rehearsal drummer for the dancers. He’d play during the week at dance rehearsals, drumming the beat of the music. On the weekends, he often traveled to Vegas to work with the Carpenters as well as other singers.
In addition, as Cubby explained it, although the music was always pre-recorded for the show, during the taping, usually one or more musician was there to play live. Eventually, he began to fill in on this work as well, and finally stepped in, playing with the band.
Cubby says he was thrilled to work with Nelson Riddle, a legend even then. And working with Julie Andrews was always a great pleasure.
Today Cubby O’Brien continues to work with singers, often backing Bernadette Peter.
More on Cubby later. You may find his site on the web.
© Michelle Russell
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